Cognitive anthropology and cultural transmission; legacies and futures

Mads Solberg (University of Bergen)
Radu Gabriel Umbres (National School for Political and Administrative Sciences)
Start time:
23 July, 2016 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel brings together anthropologists for a discussion about 'cultural transmission'; a boundary concept that allows ethnographers to craft analysis firmly anchored in the ethnographic tradition, but enables participation in a larger conversation with other naturalistic approaches to culture.

Long abstract:

Cognitive anthropology has expanded considerably beyond the research agendas articulated by ethnoscientists and propents of "the new semantics/ethnography" in the 1960s and onwards. Today, researchers from a multitude of disciplines across the behavioural and biological sciences have contributed with insights into how cultural cognition and practices gets distributed, is transformed, and emerge from the interplay between a rich set of social, ecological and mental mechanisms. This pluralism is perhaps a sign that cognitive anthropology has finally come of age. Observational and interpretative studies of social dynamics 'in the wild' is what ethnographers do best. This panel will bring together anthropologists and ethnographers with an interest in this complex relationship between culture and cognition through a discussion about 'cultural transmission'. We propose that the framework of cultural transmission presents a theoretically central and thus excellent boundary concept that allows ethnographers to craft analysis firmly anchored in the ethnographic tradition, but that simultaneously enables them to participate in a larger scientific conversation with other naturalistic approaches (for example developmental and evolutionary models) that seek to rigorously describe and explain the encultured mind. We welcome approaches ranging from mind-informed ethnography to experimental approaches to mixed-methods takes on the relationship between culture and mind. We expect works that tackle diverse subjects such as essentialism, religion and apparently irrational beliefs, kinship representations and practices, the transmission of cultural representations, moral reasoning, cooperation and communication, folk epistemology, and other domains (the list remains open).